If anyone needs reminding why reclaiming the night is an important issue then the dark and poorly lit surroundings of Buoy Park – adjacent to the Ulster University Campus, the Cathedral area and Belfast’s main thoroughfare Royal Avenue – should do the trick.
City and town centres in Northern Ireland are not safe or welcoming places after dark.
What a contrast between Buoy Park, where last nights Reclaim The Night rally gathered, and the nearby brightly lit St Anne’s Square packed with restaurants, bars and a theatre. Public space seems well lit when it can turn a profit but abandoned when it is deemed non-commercial.
Violent attacks and sex crimes increased again last year. More than 34,000 violent assaults were recorded and 3,000 incidents of rape or other sexual attacks reported. Not all of these occurred in town and city centres after dark, of course – but many did.
A culture which dictates that women, members of the LBGT community or other vulnerable persons are reluctant or fearful to use public spaces, particularly at night, has to be challenged and overcome. So too does a culture which lights the profitable and condemns the non commercial areas of our towns and cities